King Lear context and criticism

James I asserted that it was blasphemous and unlawful to question the king
in shakespeares time of writing those born outside of marriage were seen as conceived unnaturally, and were therefore given no rights to inherit
the aim of improving one’s position and rank in society was something that was beginning to become possible due to the social upheaval taking place during the Shakespearean period
Edmund provides a physical example of the… unusual but rapid social change occurring during the 16th and 17th centuries
the idea of the “wheel of fortune” was one adopted by many, believing that through great effort, anybody could rise to the top of the wheel and therefore social standings
The reign of Elizabeth I was characterised by deception – Elizabeth I spent her reign skilfully playing various suitors and factions against each other for political gain and personal enjoyment whilst remaining unmarried
King Lear was written during a period where the monarch was of central importance
in jacobean england, monarchs were seen as being God’s deputies, and as having a “divine right to rule” – the monarch had absolute power, and an attack on him or her, even a verbal one, was considered treason
it was a common idea in shakespeare’s time of writing that bastards were immoral and potentially treacherous
the arrival of cordelia with the french army was likely to remind many in shakespeare’s audience of the recent attempted spanish invasion
In shakespeare’s world, feudal society with… its strong allegiances and rigid hierarchy had virtually vanished, and discoveries in science and the new world, together, with increasing wealth from commerce manufacture, fostered new ideas about value and merit; powerful men emerged who felt no obligation to the old, feudal loyalties
suicide was condemned by the church as against… God’s will, and those who committed suicide were believed to go straight to hell
In shakespeare’s time of writing it was common belief that people showing signs of madness… were possessed by devils, and should be kept in confined places
it was a customary “sport”… in the 17th century to visit places such as Bedlam, where the mentally disturbed were held, and to find entertainment in their antics
Jacobean audiences had a limited understanding of… metal ilness
During the 17th century, titles…. of pre-eminence could be bought and sold
The copernic model of the universe argued that… the sun, as opposed to the earth, was at the centre of the universe
The roman catholic church condemned the copernicus book and banned it, suggesting that its idea’s were somewhat mad
In the 2014 Sam Mendes production of King Lear, Edmund is contrasted to…. his legitimate brother Edgar in terms of outward appearance – Edmund wears expensive-looking dark clothes and a watch, whereas Edgar is often seen to be wearing dirty, brown or grey clothes, or in some circumstances, no clothes at allIt could be seen that this interpretation hints at the fact Edmund has far more he compensates for in his life; Edmund being a bastard, puts on a fa├žade of wealth and legitimacy in a way of emphasising his value in societyIn contrast, Edgar has no need to pursue anything, and is therefore unconcerned about his outward appearance
Martin Old describes Edmund’s attempts to improve his position as a “selfish quest for status and power”
A Marxist critic may argue that Edmund is presented as a Machiavellian and enjoys … causing suffering to others for his personal pleasure perhaps to spite those who are given power as a result of their legitimacy
A Jacobean audience would have been shocked by Lear’s decision to divide the Kingdom given that a division …. of a Kingdom would’ve weakened it, leading to squabbles between petty lords and the absence of an effective central government and an effective defence
A political reading may argue that “King Lear” portrays the conflict between….. a rigidly hierarchal feudal world of shared values and an emerging new society of thrusting individuals who reject old loyalties and beliefs
Thomas Roche on the end of the play “Lear still cannot tell good from evil or true from false”
Adrian Ingham “Through his madness, Lear breaks down the false illusions of his courtly world”
In the 2008 Trevor Nunn production of King Lear, Regan appears almost “mad” in her …. sadistic actions and carelessness in her facial expressions that suggest an excitement in the torturing of Gloucester
Keith Linley “King Lear is a family-centred play about two dysfunctional families”
2008 Trevor Nunn, oswald… looks uncomfortable about what he has been asked to do
2008 trevor nunn, direct contrast In lear’s clothing between act 1 scene 1 and act 3 scene 2; Lear is shown in act 1 scene 1 wearing red and gold clothes, with a metal crown, whereas in the storm, lear is wearing grey-brown clothes that appear to have been made out of old sacks, and wearing a crown made of twines and flowers; it is likely that this production reinforces Lear’s declining position in society through his clothing.